In 1994, Xavier’s alumnae office decided to send out annual birthday cards to all Xavier alumnae. In a typical school year, approximately 12,0000 Xavier alumnae receive a personally-addressed birthday card through their mail or emails.
Alumnae Director Polly Fitz-Gerald said, “Alumnae really appreciate the birthday cards; it’s just a little nod from Xavier.”
The birthday cards are a way of keeping in touch with alumnae and they show the love that Xavier and its present students and staff hold for them.
Fitz-Gerald uses email and social media to track down alumnae who move houses or get married and change their last names. For her, making sure that every alumna receives a card is crucial.
Fitz-Gerald turns to students in the art department every year for a new birthday-card design. However, anyone can enter the contest, even if one doesn’t take an art class. The art department’s contest decides which student will be responsible for designing the card.
The art work changes every year, but according to Fitz-Gerald the only requirements are that the card include “a gator and a ‘Happy Birthday.’” The winner of the year receives a gift card of her choice.
The designs range from simpler designs to more ornate designs. Many designs include things unique to Xavier like the bell tower and plaid. Another common inclusion is an object that reflects events that occurred in the world that year.
Fitz-Gerald says she plans on framing all of the birthday cards.
The art contest winner for the 2019-20 school year was sophomore Kathryn Nilssen. “I was inspired to create a design that would reflect the spirit of Xavier along with a fun birthday element, school colors, and other accessories to bring a sense of familiarity,” said Nilssen.
Out of four entries, the winner for the 2020-2021 school year was froshwoman Valentina Gomez del Campo Leyva.
“Baking is something that I really enjoy doing, so I guess my design is a play on myself, a Xavier gator, baking a birthday cake for the alumnae,” said Leyva. For her, the birthday card design is a nice gesture for the alumnae and a way to feel connected to them.
Leyva said that she thinks the freshwomen are the “most enthusiastic participants.” Creating a design that all Xavier alumnae receive is a way for the baby gators to interact with alumnae and further integrate
themselves into the Xavier community.
Fitz-Gerald said that although birthday cards are not the only thing that are sent to alumnae to keep in touch, they are among the most cherished things they receive.
Leyva incorporates a mask in her design to represent the pandemic.